gwgcats4_300x250.jpg [“Marketing Melancholy” is an occasional column by Siliconera's Spencer Yip that examines multiple facets of marketing games from an end user's point of view, from advertising campaigns through box art and beyond. This second column discusses Spencer's opinions on .]

This past week, Vivendi Games launched an amazingly successful ad campaign for Geometry Wars Galaxies. Their LOLcats ads posted at GWGCats.com sparked buzz on the Internet that went beyond clicking through them.

Gamers were talking about the ads on message boards, and bloggers posted the ads on their sites too. Roped in the discussion was chat about Geometry Wars Galaxies too, which probably has Vivendi Games smiling. So, how did they manage to pull this off?

Right Place, Right Time?

Whoever designed the ads capitalized off popular Internet humor, a right place/right time phenomenon that is targeted at the correct demographic. However, I think it’s even simpler than that. The banner ads for Geometry Wars Galaxies break the banner blindness barrier because they are different. Even though someone isn’t aware of LOLcats, the ads stick out like a sore thumb compared to the cookie-cutter Flash ads that announce a game is on store shelves.

Perhaps the success of the LOLcats campaign illustrates how video game advertising has fallen into a rut. A standard leaderboard ad scrolls through features, or maybe the main characters and then announces the name of the title. The problem is where leaderboard ads are placed - the top of the page. Even if an ad doesn’t fall into the banner blindness trap, nearly all readers scroll down or click on to the next page before it can cycle through all of its information. That means only a fraction of the information is being passed down to readers.

The general solution to this problem is buying more ad placements on a site. If a reader misses the leaderboard, they will scroll down and see a vertical skyscraper ad with the same message. More placements mean more chances to catch a reader, but obviously this costs more money. Also these ads tend to do the same thing - announce a game is on the market. On one hand, it reminds readers who have been following a game that it’s about to come out and they should head to local game shop and buy it. However, these ads don’t drum up the kind of excitement that the LOLcats ad campaign created.

Creating A Game Ad Campaign That Makes You Stare

Is Internet humor the only way to achieve this? No, but you need to create a campaign that entices curiosity, instead of just announcing a product. See, the LOLcats aren’t directly about what they are advertising. When you look at one of them, there is a head scratching moment where you wonder what they are for - and if you’re curious like me, you click on to find out.

Here are some personal thoughts on how you bring a little intrigue and interest to online game advertising.

Example 1:
Let’s say you’re about to announce a lesser known, cerebral strategy RPG. You can design a banner with a standard chessboard that replaces the kings and queens with your characters plus a slogan like “Paladin (or insert main character’s name here) to H8”. This campaign draws on a classic, familiar game and twists it to make a reader wonder what is going on. This campaign can be further expanded by using other board games like checkers, Reversi and Go.

Example 2:
Franchise revivals are all the rage now, and here is a way a game company could announce a comeback. Draft up a marble headstone with the franchise’s title as the heading. Then put the release date of the first game in the series and the release date of the last game in the series. The result would be something like “here rests Game Title Q (August 1, 1986 – December 21, 1995)”. Below the headstone, have a freshly dug up hole in the grass, which symbolically informs readers the series is coming back. This idea is tongue-in-cheek, but it’s eye catching.

Example 3:
In this case you’re about to advertise a portable version of game of a somewhat established franchise. Why not take the mascot character or the protagonist, place him/her/it visiting landmarks around the world playing a handheld system? Place the character in the crowds of a Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Photoshop it visiting the Eiffel Tower and outside Mann’s Chinese Theater among the Hollywood stars. Blend reality and fantasy to make readers wonder what is going on.

These are just some thoughts, but these concept ads are not designed to bombard readers with facts in a tiny space. They are designed to give readers a chuckle and get readers to click the ad to discover the message. What do GSW readers think?